Making the call

James Boyd Photography /
Chief Umpire Mike Martin talks us through the RRS changes for the America's Cup and their innovations in umpiring, scoring, etc.
The photos in this article are courtesy of Gilles Martin-Raget/ No stone has been left unturned in attempting to turn racing for the 34th America’s Cup into an event with maximum appeal to television and the non-sailing public. Lost slightly behind the more glamorous features of the new era America’s Cup, such as the wingsail catamarans has been how the Racing Rules of Sailing and the umpiring system have also had a complete overhaul. The new 'Racing Rules of Sailing - America’s Cup edition' have been endorsed by ISAF, after they were created by the America's Cup defender, Oracle Racing, headed by their rules adviser Richard Slater, and members of Vincenzo Onorato’s Mascalzone Latino, when it was Challenger of Record. But central to the process, the middle man representing America’s Cup Race Management in the process, was Mike Martin, whose job was to ensure that the new rules met ACRM's goals of fast, exciting sailing, simple for spectators to comprehend, etc. “With the different boats and trying to make it spectator-friendly, we have tried to simplify the rules and take out the ones which are confusing for spectators and sailors and umpires altogether,” says Martin, now Chief Umpire and who is also a former 505 World Champion. “A good example is the tacking rule, rule 13 in the old rules. We don’t have that rule any more. It used to be that you were tacking from the time you crossed head to wind until the time you were on a closehauled course. For us, you are either on starboard tack or you’re on port tack, just depending on your windward side, so the actual tacking is instantaneous. It makes it a lot cleaner and it takes out a lot of subjective calls.” Another one, which regularly comes into play in match racing is